Clearly, the “Black Panther” hype will not die anytime soon.
Tuesday night, ardent fans attended the Hammer Museum’s special screening of the film, followed by a panel discussion featuring actors Chadwick Boseman, Lupita Nyong’o and Angela Bassett. “Black Panther” is one of ten films chosen for the 2018 MoMA Contenders series, which aims to highlight influential releases from the last 12 months. The Celeste Bartos Chief Curator of Film at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, Raj Roy, moderated the panel, discussing with cast members the film’s representations of women, its racial politics and some previously unknown, behind-the-scenes experiences.
“We so needed this movie,” Roy said before the screening as he addressed “Black Panther’s” salient cultural impact.
As the film ended, he promptly introduced the three actors. Boseman appeared on stage wearing white sneakers with a loose, tangerine shirt decorated with detailed beadwork. He discussed his role as T’Challa, mentioning that he was nervous about fans disliking “Black Panther.” Boseman also delved into the contrasting political ideologies of T’Challa and antagonist Killmonger, played by Michael B. Jordan. When he initially read the script, Killmonger’s militant approach of overthrowing white power resonated with him as a black man, he said.
“If you get to have a gun, I get to have a gun,” Boseman said. “We should be equal in our freedoms.”
But as he spent more time with the script, he returned to T’Challa’s peaceful philosophy: Killmonger’s end goal wasn’t wrong, but his means of achieving it were. Nyong’o also addressed T’Challa’s thought process, saying her character Nakia, at times, could predict him better than he could himself. The two actors discussed their on-screen romance, Nyong’o mentioning that there was much more to their support toward each other than, “I love you baby, go do your thing.”
Nyong’o expressed her view that the fantastical world of superheroes was missing dark skin and strong female characters, which “Black Panther” provided. But Nakia wasn’t the only admirable woman on screen – she was joined by three others, including Bassett’s character, Queen Ramonda. Roy dubbed 2018 the “Year of Women Above 40,” honoring Bassett’s ability to teach young fanboys the importance of listening to their mother, just as T’Challa does in “Black Panther.” Basset, dressed in a salmon-colored velvet suit, responded by saying she had never considered this aspect of her role, and eventually closed the discussion by attributing her success to the experience of being a mother herself.
Fans stood up as soon as the actors did, swarming to the stage to ask for autographs and selfies. One attendee managed to get Boseman’s signature on his sneakers, proudly holding them up.
“Who’s got Wakanda shoes?”